Essay on The Revolution in Russia

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The Revolution in Russia

In the last years of World War I a Revolution in Russia overthrew the Tsar and eventually led to the establishment of the world's first avowedly Communist state. The Soviet Union that rose out of the ashes of the Russian Empire would play a critical role in the events of the remainder of the century.

A useful way of understanding the course of the Russian Revolution in 1917 is to compare it to a wildfire. In this metaphor, the instability of late Imperial Russia and the deep dissatisfaction of large segments of its population provided plentiful fuel for the fire that was sparked by the disastrous course of the First World War. Although the vast majority of the population was initially cheered when the
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When the revolutionary flames came, they would quickly sweep through the dead wood of Russian society, especially in rural regions.

Even into the twentieth century Russia was an overwhelmingly rural country, the vast countryside an uneducated and violent land of “[religious] icons and cockroaches.”1 The peasants, who made up some 80% of the population2, had been freed from serfdom only in the 1860s. Their emancipation, however, created as much discontent as it cured. The peasants believed they had been cheated out of land that was rightfully theirs. Occasional famines increased their desire to seize and redistribute the land by force in a so-called 'Black Repartition.' “An instinctive anarchist,” the peasant refrained from revolt only because he was forced to by the autocracy.3 Many peasant uprisings broke out nonetheless, only to be suppressed by the police or army.

Another destabilising force was the industrial working class. Although far smaller than the peasantry, workers were clustered around the centres of power in the largest cities of the Empire. Especially important were Moscow and the capital city of Petrograd, both of which experienced rapid industrialisation as Imperial Russia attempted to catch up to Western Europe. Working and living conditions were poor and strikes common. Many strikes and demonstrations were started for political rather than (or in addition to) economic

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